Reel, E Dorian / D, Traditional Irish
Also known as The Unfortunate Cup of Tea
The Cup of Tea is a three-part reel that first teases you by starting with the somber sound of a minor key, then promptly brightens up. It’s a bit like taking a sip of good black tea, and then adding a little sweetness for the next sip. The first (A) part of the tune begins in E minor (or E Dorian), and that is why this tune is often identified as being in E minor or E Dorian. But the A part resolves to D major. The next two parts (B and C) are in D major, and the tune resolves to D major – so, ultimately it is a D major tune.
- Video – Anthea Lawrence: The Unfortunate Cup of Tea/Ships are Sailing/The Star of Munster – from the album Fiddlehead
- Audio – Stephen Ducke: The Cup of Tea (Reel) – played on tin whistle. From the book Irish Music — 400 Traditional Tunes
- Video – The Tulla Céilí Band: Cooley’s/The Cup Of Tea/The Wise Maid (Reels) – from the album A Celebration of 50 Years (The Cup of Tea starts at about time 1:08)
Dots (Music Notation)
As always for traditional tunes, the musical notation and chords do not indicate the “right” way to play the tune, but are a useful reference.
Play from the Dots
Examples of sets that include this tune.
- The Cup of Tea / Ships are Sailing / The Star of Munster
- Cooley’s Reel / The Cup of Tea / The Wise Maid
References and Resources
For those who want to dig deeper, here are some other resources.
- Book – Complete Irish Fiddle Player, by Peter Cooper (Mel Bay Publications)
- Book – Irish Music 400 Traditional Tunes, by Stephen Ducke
- Book – 100 Essential Irish Session Tunes, by Dave Mallinson (Mally Productions)
- Book – The Portland Collection, Vol. 2, Contra Dance Music in the Pacific Northwest By Susan Songer with Clyde Curley.
- Video – Mikela Valenzuela: The Cup of Tea (Irish reel) – slow and medium speed – fiddle demonstration
- Video – Shane Farrell: The Cup of Tea Reel — tenor banjo demonstration
- Video – Aodan Coyne: The Cup Of Tea Reel – Guitar Lesson (DADGAD Tuning)
- Video – Feadóg Original Irish Whistle: Whistle Epic Tunes The Cup of Tea – basic tin whistle demonstration